House 19
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House #
House Style
Size Ft2
Year Built
Cost/Ft2
19
Earth-bermed
1524
2000–03
NA
Architect/Designer
General Contractor
Sub-contractors (significant) & Type
Owner/Howard Cherrington Owner Craig "Derosa" Edwards-lead carpenter
Dwight Filer-plumbing
Janie Lewis-Tile
Rudge Rowatt- bathroom cabinets
Primary E-Design Factors
Significant E-Products Used
Results—Positive/Negative
Earth-berming
Low-E windows (high solar heat gain)
Formaldhyde-free insulation
Recycled flooring (kitchen)
Solar hot water
Heavy insulation
Energy Star appliances & CFL’s
Insulated footings
Root cellar
Water based finishes
"Copper Cricket" solar hot water system.

Aldes air exchanger.

"Enerjoy" ceiling mount radiant heater in bathroom.

The house uses less than a cord of wood a year, for heating and a small amount of electric heat.

Solar hot water system supplies all summer hot water, and over 50% in winter.

Owner bought a non-UL approved wood stove, but could not get fire insurance, and had to buy a UL approved stove.

EARTH-BERM—INSULATE WELL—PASSIVE SUN HOUSE ORIENTATION—LOW HEATING BILLS OVER THE LIFETIME OF THE BUIDING !!!!

This house incorporates a number of smart construction ideas. The house is earth-bermed, and stick framed, with an uninsulated concrete slab floor (the kitchen floor is maple). The framing uses 2x8 plates and 2x6 off-set studs: a technique that allows for more insulation. The wall and ceiling insulation is formaldehyde free blown-in-blanket fiberglass (walls are R-25, and the ceiling is R-45+). The stem wall, and berm wall, are insulated on the outside with solid foam sheeting which decreases in thickness with depth (the earth itself act as an insulator, so less is required as one goes deeper). The sheet insulation also extends two feet outward from the stem wall (parallel to the surface and below ground level); this helps to insulate the earth below it, and allows for a warmer slab floor by taking advantage of the year round soil temperature, at a depth of ca. 54˚.

The owner was especially interested in using high quality windows, and calculating the optimal number of windows, and low-e (low emissivity) type of glazing for the mass/size of the house. The windows are double pane argon filled low-e windows with a 3.5 R-value. He spent considerable time finding a window manufacture who would use high solar heat gain coefficient low-e coatings. Low-e windows are often supplied with low heat gain coefficient glass which will reduce the amount of heat (infrared) that enters house; this is fine for hot environments, but for an area like the Methow with cold winters, a high heat gain type, which "holds" the infrared inside the house, may be a better choice (see the Techniques and Products—Windows page for more information). This owner had to do his own research to find the smart window product application, because 5 years ago, the average window supplier and house builder knew nothing about this technology. Many suppliers and builders still are ignorant, but because of the hurculean efforts of people like this homeowner, there is more knowledge and product choice available now.

The house has a "Copper Cricket" solar hot water system. The "Copper Cricket" system hasn't been manufactured for a number of years, but other systems are available (you can also google homemade solar hot water). The owner said that his system supplied all his hot water needs in summer, and over 50% in winter. This system, like a number of others, uses a heat exchanger mechanism to preheat, or fully heat, the hot water that is used in the house. The exchanger is often a second water tank (without a heater), in which a pipe containing the hot fluid (here, a methanol-water mixture) from the solar collector transfers its heat to the cold, household water in the tank. There is no mixing of the fluid and water in the tank; the fluid cools as it transfers its heat, and returns to the collector for reheating—essentially a continuous loop. The heat exchanger system is passive—no electric pump is needed. The now warmed household water is then passed to another tank with a heater in it e.g., gas or electric, to bring it up to the desired temperture—if needed. We feel that solar hot water systems are often overlooked in the Methow. The Methow has a sunny climate, and solar hot water is a viable option to consider. If the thought of a system on your roof freezing concerns you—as it should—systems can be placed off the house and still function well.

To help light some interior rooms, thus reducing the need for some electric lighting, glass bricks were installed. This allowed daylight to pass into a utility room and the bathroom, while still allowing for privacy. The glass bricks are installed on a wall partially build of cement blocks which also serves as a solar mass. CFL's are used where possible. The glass brick detail adds a warm, beautiful and playful quality of light reflecting back into the living room as well as the intended rooms.

Heating is a combination of solar, wood stove, and some back-up electric baseboard heaters. The owner stated that he uses less than one cord of wood per year for his heating needs. One problem he encountered was that the original wood stove was not UL approved, and because of this he could not get fire insurance. The original stove was switched out, but it was an unexpected, and a bit costly, problem.

Recycled/repurposed materials are used in several areas. The kitchen has a floor of recycled maple from a gym. The bathroom tiles are "seconds" from Spokane supplier, "Quarry Tile". Low VOC, water based finishes, were used in the house. Appliances are "Energy Star" rated, an energy, and thus, pollution saving feature. The house also has a root/cool cellar.

OWNERS BUILDING ADVICE: The owner was his own general contractor and built part of the house himself. He believes that if you built it yourself you'll have more time to do it properly. He recommends that you add your existing furniture to the house drawings. You will have a better feeling for what you can design.